Sunday, February 23, 2014

Practicing for Losar

Nearly every Sunday afternoon, parents from the Seattle-area Tibetan community pack their kids in the family car and cart them to four hours of Tibetan language and culture classes that the community organizes in an effort to keep its traditions alive. 

As someone who briefly tried to learn even a little of the Tibetan language -- I quickly became frustrated and gave up -- I can tell you that the study is not at all easy. 

A further sad truth is this: I was clueless at learning the Tibetan language, but I'm afraid I've been equally lame when it comes to real participation in my friends' cultural celebrations. There have been a number of special, festive occasions when  I have set my cameras aside and attempted to join along with the community in Tibetan dancing, but what I demonstrated was that I wasn't good at 1-2-3-step, 1-2-3-step either.

Better that I stay on my side of the camera, focusing on the activities of others.

Today I made pictures as parents and kids prepared for next weekend’s big Tibetan New Year celebration, Losar.  There was high energy dance practice; kid-type horseplay; and the making of Tibetan pastries called khapse. Sweetest of all were the moments when the children honored their parents by giving them ceremonial blessing scarves, Losar flowers,  and hugs.

It was a swell day, particularly because I did not try to speak much Tibetan,  or dance.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Not About Photography

Typically when I head off to Washington’s wild places, my trips are all about photography, or adventure, or both. I take my backpack loaded with the food, water, and clothing that I might need for a day (or several days) out. And of course I take a camera, a couple of zoom lenses, and a tripod.

More importantly,  I take a  mind that is open and ready to engage fully with the visual feeling of an environment.

Last Friday, however, as I was preparing for a trip to the Washington Coast, my traveling companion (my dear mate) made it known that she’d appreciate it if this outing differed,  stylistically and conceptually,  from my usual, jock, dirt-bag mode of adventure. It was Valentine’s Day and my funny valentine had planned a “getaway” for us. She’d booked a room at a nice lodge on the Pacific Ocean (no camping out in a tent with my smelly hiker friends this trip)  and made reservations in the lodge’s dining room for a special Valentine’s dinner (no freeze-dried backpacker food this day.)

“Can this trip not be about photography?” she asked. And, believe it or not,  I understood exactly what was being asked of me.

You see, I get it that, to someone not uber-engaged in photography,  there are other, non-image-making kinds of enjoyment one might find when strolling a beach on the ocean.  There are tidal patterns in the sand to marvel at, crashing waves to see and hear.

Thus, once we checked into the lodge, I left my camera bag and tripod in our room. My valentine and I did several walks on the beach.  I did have a compact camera in my pocket, and I shot a couple of snaps, kind of tourist-like.  But by and large, I was there, and present, and I tried to be good company.

I believe I can report that a good time was had by all.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Valentines

These are pictures of my muses, my Funny Valentines.

Neither of my gals likes to have her picture taken.  When I come around with my camera,  my girls often wrinkle their noses or look the other way.  Sometimes, if I work quickly, a can catch an image of my Valentines, but it is not easy.

These are my Valentines.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Action Sport

One of the challenges for me about outdoor photography -- I’m speaking here only about the way I seem to practice it --  is that it is such an Action Sport.  My friends and I are out, usually for just a day, and we are trekking through an environment, hoping to cover x-number of miles and climb or descend x-thousand feet of elevation to reach a summit or a ridge-top or a canyon bottom.

To paraphrase Robert Frost, we have “promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.”

So there we are, my friends and I, moving, moving, moving.
Then I see something, the possibility of an image:  There is great light, or  wonderful clouds are forming, or whatever.
And so I say to the group: “You all keep going. I’m going to take a picture.  I’ll catch up.”

Sometimes the image is such that I can shoot quickly.  I pull my camera from the case I have strapped to my chest. I happen to have the right lens on. I make a few exposures. I pack the camera back in its pouch and double-time it back toward my companions.

Occasionally, though, a scene is technically more demanding and a tripod must be set up; or a complicated exposure made; or the light is changing and I need to wait and see what Nature has up her sleeve. I need to take some time, but meanwhile, the group heads off into the distance.

The day I made the two photographs you see posted here, there was a third image -- one that required a tripod -- but that particular visual circumstance presented itself at the end of the day, and it was getting dark. Finding our way by headlamp through the forest we were in  was not going to be easy.  We needed to keep moving. And so I missed a picture that I would have liked to have made.

“The one that got away...” 
Oh, that does make me crazy.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Super Bowl Snowshoe

My friends and I have gone into the mountains on snowshoe trips the last several Sundays, which normally would not be much of a News Flash because we go hiking most every week, all year ‘round. These last hikes have been noteworthy, however, because they have absolutely gone against the cultural grain of the part of the country where we live.

My friends and I have been oddballs, you see, misfits in Pacific Northwest society, because the trips have taken us away from television sets and thus we have not watched every single minute of The Most Important Moments in Seattle Sports History, the three National Football League playoff games won by the Seattle Seahawks.

Weirder still, my friends and I were snowshoeing last Sunday, the day most human beings in the civilized world refer to as Super Bowl Sunday, the day Seattle’s Seahawks played  (and completely dominated) the Denver Broncos.

Our region has been so over-the-top nutso about the Seahawks that fans here have been labeled “The Twelfth Man,” or “The Twelves” (a football team has 11 athletes on the field) and even Seahawks players say they are amazed and inspired by the outpouring of adoration. A huge flag with a “12” on it flies from the top of the Seattle Space Needle, and most cars have bumper stickers featuring the Seahawks logo and a “12.”

I actually saw a reader board in front of a church that had this message: “Jesus had Twelve Men. Go Hawks!”

Anyway, the pictures I’m posting today are my chronicle of Super Bowl Sunday: Lotsa fresh, beautiful snow, on a good day to spend outside.

I might add that,  here on the West Coast,  the Super Bowl ran late enough into the afternoon that my friends and I were able to do our hike, drive down off our mountain and head into a funky mountain town bar,  still in time to blend in with the assembled locals and watch the second half of the game.

I didn’t actually check, but I’d be willing to bet there were Seahawks fans in that bar who were celebrating the big Super Bowl win by downing 12 beers.